Giving Bea a new look


My favorite project I worked on while at Duolingo was giving Bea a makeover. This project is my favorite because I got to take a beloved aspect of the brand, and update it to ensure it was authentic of the Black community that the character represents. For this project my role was Art Director and collaborator to the Head of Art at Duolingo.


  • My Role: Product Design
  • Team Size: 5


  • Got to put my art director cap on and partner with other black folks to ensure the design was perf
  • Redesign saw positive buzz on social


Who is Bea?

Every language learner using Duolingo is accompanied by a green owl and a cast of bubbly and diverse characters. The colorful cast of characters add vibrancy and delight to a typically hard skill to learn — learning a language. Bea is among that cast of characters and is designed to represent all folks of African descent.

So what's the problem?

Bea didn't quite feel right. I wanted to love the character but when I looked at her she didn't look as authentic as the other characters. I didn't see a reflection of her blackness besides her skin color. When I looked further I realized the majority of the disconnect stemmed from the ambiguity of her hair.

There's no single thing that makes anyone "black", but having spent hours and hours accompanying by mom to the beauty salon, I know for a fact that hair is important to the black community. Hair carries stories, emotions, and years and years of black pride. So for Bea, it was important that we define what exactly her hair was.

Building a reference

My first step was to gather as many references to black hair as possible. Though Duolingo's style is flat, I knew that included only examples of that style would be not only limiting for our product but hard to do because of the lack of good examples. Instead, I focused on building a reference library from all types of mediums (animation, real life, 3D, just to name a few) and used those references to create 3 principles that I thought represented black hair: Volume, Texture, and Rhythm.

Of course, before sharing this reference guide, I checked in with black woman identifying coworkers and friends to make sure I was representing them in the right way.

Getting to Bea's new look

Collaborating with the head artist, we went through several iterations. Our process involved creating a few directions and sharing with other black identifying folks for feedback. Through each we were able to hone in on the Bea that is live in our product and brand today!

Looking back at it

Everytime I see this character congratulate me when I get an answer right, I just smile.
Enough said. Big Thanks to everyone at Duolingo for helping to accomplish this.